There was a somber mood the New Eastcoast Arms Collectors Association gun show at the Saratoga Springs City Center on Saturday, possibly the last incarnation of the event to be held at the venue.
Cathy Petronis, who is the co-owner and operator of NEACA with her husband David Petronis, said attendance was down and slow from prior years, likely due to the Saratoga Springs City Council's decision to ban the sale of guns and ammunition on city property in March in the wake of the Parkland, Fla. school shooting. This NEACA show was previously scheduled.
Cathy Petronis said school shootings, like the one in Santa Fe, Texas last week, are not helping to increase gun sales in the same way that they sometimes did in the past.
"The shootings aren't affecting sales, what they are affecting is that we can't have the show here anymore. It was a knee jerk reaction to the shootings in Florida that caused the city council to pass this new law," Cathy Petronis said. "What happened was, everybody was ecstatic when Trump was elected, including ourselves, but there was a lull in gun sales because people didn't feel the immediacy because Trump is pro Second Amendment. Now, the sales are picking up, somewhat."
Gun sales have been slow across the United States since the election of Trump in 2016. American Outdoor Brands Corp., which owns gun manufacturer Smith & Wesson firearms, has reported a 32.6 percent drop in net sales since last year, citing a lack of "fear-based buying." In February, gun manufacturer Remington filed for bankruptcy. FBI firearm background checks, often seen as reliable barometer of sales, increased steadily throughout the administration of President Barack Obama, but dipped by 8 percent last year.
Dean Adamski, owner of DD's Ranch, located in Alden, said that among gun dealers Obama was sometimes known as the "greatest gun salesman in the world" because enthusiasts would often buy new weapons whenever there was a mass shooting out of fear of increased federal legislation that failed to materialize.
"People have started to realize that, time after time they didn't change the laws federally. Most of the time its federally that people are worried about, our state already changed the laws. So, how bad can it get? I don't know," Adamski said.
Adamski's gun dealer table at the NEACA show featured a number of AR-15 semiautomatic rifles, each with a sticker explaining that the weapons are SAFE ACT compliant, referring to the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013. He said he lost about 40 percent of his business after the SAFE Act was passed because of the "hundreds of firearms" it no longer allowed him to sell.
The most recent shootings have prompted Gov. Andrew Cuomo to step up rhetoric against institutions friendly to influential gun rights lobbying group the National Rifle Association as well as gun dealers generally. In March Citigroup announced that its clients, that use the bank's loans, or services, must stop selling "bump stocks" and high capacity magazines and restrict gun sales to people who haven't passed a background check or are under age 21.
Cathy Petronis said she and her husband have ripped up their Citibank credit cards and are discouraging their friends and customers from doing business with the bank. She said many of the attendees at her gunshow are also not going to frequent Saratoga Springs stores or restaurants after the city's decision to ban the gun show. NEACA may still try to hold a gun show in Saratoga Springs next year, Cathy Petronis said, but they will need to find a private sector location to do it.
Charles Potter, owner of Potter Industries which makes deerskin leather gloves, attended the gun show Saturday with a table set up to sell his merchandise, as he has done in past years. He said sales for him were flat or down Saturday, which he attributed partly to the weather and the fact it was Memorial Day weekend. Potter, who is the Gloversville 4th Ward supervisor and a former chairman of the Fulton County Board of Supervisors, said he'd love to try to get the NEACA convention to move to Fulton County.
"This is a safe, reliable, well attended show. The people who attend this show really like it. I think Fulton County should try to get the promoter to try to do a show twice a year. The great thing about Fulton County is it is a great compass point from the north or the south or the east or the west. If we did it, I think people would really come out for it," Potter said.
Tim Hayden, a member of the Middleburgh Gun Club who said he lives near that town, was not happy about gun sales being banned on public property in Saratoga Springs. He said the ban is one step toward tyranny.
"I think gun enthusiasm is not the root of all evil. I think the NRA is a patriotic organization. I think marksmanship is a virtue, shooting sports used to be bigger than baseball. The guns have been the same for 100 years, at least the ones we shoot. There's something wrong with people; it's a murder problem, not a gun problem," Hayden said.
"How do you keep them out of the hands of the wrong people, is the question," Hayden said. "And you can't tell who the wrong people are and the only thing left is to take them from everybody and that will result in unarmed citizens being killed by the millions, which has happened in the last hundred years, 100 million times, so this is where we're at."